First-rate care, First-rate people, First-rate value

Lowering the carbon footprint of inhalers - Information for patients and carers

What is carbon footprint?

Carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere because of the activities of people, organisations, or communities. This gas contributes to climate change. 

Medicines account for 25% of all the carbon footprint generated by the NHS. There is a significant focus on two groups in particular: anaesthetic gases (2% of emissions) and inhalers (3.5% of emissions).

Why First Community support the NHS Plan to reduce carbon footprint:

  • 70% of inhalers prescribed in the UK are metered-dose inhalers which contain fluorinated gases as propellants which are potent greenhouse gases 
  • There are more than 65 million inhalers prescribed every year, and a very high proportion of them go to landfill with almost half of their useable propellant left inside 
  • The impact of these propellants is equivalent to the carbon emissions from all NHS road mileage in England, including business travel and emergency vehicles.

How we hope to achieve this:

First Community will support people with respiratory conditions by ensuring our healthcare professionals discuss inhaler devices options. We will help our patients recognise the importance of carbon footprint in respiratory inhaler devices.

The pharmacy team, with your consent, will refer you to your own doctor or respiratory team for an inhaler review if required.

All patients admitted to our inpatient ward or those seen by our Respiratory Nurse:

  • During your stay in hospital there may be changes made to your inhaler depending on your condition 
  • The doctor might change or combine two or three of your inhalers into one to ensure you find it easy to use, which in turn helps us reduce the carbon footprint 
  • If you are under the care of our respiratory team at home, the nurse will check that your inhaler is right for you 
  • You might be given a spacer to enhance the delivery of the medicine to your lung which can reduce how often you use your inhaler 
  • The pharmacy team on the ward will check how you use your inhaler to ensure all inhalers are used correctly for greater effectiveness
  • Your nominated chemist can also check how you use your inhaler.

How you can help to reduce the carbon footprint of a metered dose Inhaler:

  • Look after your inhalers and avoid over ordering them 
  • Return your used or unwanted inhalers to a pharmacy for either recycling where available, or environmentally safe disposal 
  • Ensure your metered dose inhaler is not discarded before they are empty 
  • Ask the pharmacist if you are not sure or you don’t know how to tell when your inhaler is empty 
  • Let your pharmacy know if you have been told you no longer require an inhaler by the Respiratory Team.

First Community provides front-line NHS community healthcare services in east Surrey and parts of West Sussex.

We provide first-rate care, through our first-rate people, offering first-rate value. For more information visit:

If you would like this information in another format, for example large print or easy read, or if you need help communicating with us:

First Community (Head Office)

Call: 01737 775450 Email: Text: 07814 639034

Address: First Community Health and Care, Orchard House, Unit 8a, Orchard Business Centre, Bonehurst Road, Redhill RH1 5EL


To print this page, please select accessibility tools and the print this page icon. 

For office use: Version 1 PFD_PSQ005 Publication date: May 2022